Another casualty of island attack: crabbing business

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Another casualty of island attack: crabbing business

INCHEON - A fish market in Incheon that sells fresh crabs was unusually quiet yesterday afternoon, despite it being crab season.

Most of crabs sold at the fish market are caught along the west coast near Yeonpyeong Island, where many fishermen have left for the mainland. The South Korean government has banned Yeonpyeong fishermen from sailing boats to catch crabs, citing a possible second attack by the North. Yeonpyeong is one of main suppliers of crabs in the South.

“I stopped to buy some Yeonpyeong crabs and I can’t find any here,” said Park Cheol-sun, a 64-year-old woman from Bucheon, Incheon.

The situation at Sorae Port in Incheon was the same. A group of fishermen unloaded three boxes of fresh crabs from a fishing boat that had just arrived at the port, and it was immediately put at auction.

Lee Yeong-hun, an auctioneer who won a bid to buy crabs at 16,000 won ($13.70) per kilogram (2.2 pounds), said his crabs aren’t from Yeonpyeong. “They are from Ganghwa Island,” Lee said. “It’s been a while since I saw Yeonpyeong crabs here. This year’s crab harvesting business completely failed [due to the North’s attack].”

Beyond the supply of crabs, the aftermath of the attack is even taking a toll on auctioneers at ports in Incheon and on customers.

Just 10 days ago, most of the crabs in the Incheon fish market were from Yeonpyeong Island or Ongjin, but now crabs are from other regions - Anmyeon of South Chungcheong or Ganghwa Island, for instance.

And they are costing more.

“About 80 percent of the crabs were from Yeonpyeong Island,” said Yu Myeong-ok, an official of the National Federation of Fisheries Cooperative. “But as the crab harvest came to a halt on Yeonpyeong Island, crab prices went up by between 4,000 and 5,000 won per kilogram and fewer customers are buying them now.”

Jo Ok-sun, who runs a store selling crabs at Incheon fish market, complained that her earnings have plummeted.

“There are no Yeonpyeong crabs but many customers who come to the market only [want] Yeonpyeong crabs,” Jon complained.

Kim Ki-ja, another woman who has run a shellfish shop for more than 10 years, said many customers who come for crabs, “don’t even give a look at crabs that are from other regions.”

“My business is poor these days and I feel uneasy because of North Korea,” Kim said.

The peak crab catching season is from April to June and from September to November - the government prohibits fishing in other months.

“I really don’t know how I should make a living now, said Park Yeon-su, who is from Yeonpyeong Island.

According to the national fisheries cooperative, 156 tons of crabs worth 1.9 billion won were caught on the five islands near the west coast from Nov. 20 to 30 last year but only 33 ton of crabs worth 3 billion won were caught during the same period this year.


By Chang Chung-hoon, Kim Mi-ju [mijukim@joongang.co.kr]

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